Lesson Plans · The Human Connection

Cheer Up Charlie: Emotional Regulation Strategies

Let’s start with the basics: we’re all human, and we’re all entitled to rough days every now and then. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that kids can have tough days too. Think about the last time you reminisced about your childhood. Did you remember something positive? Chances are you did, and you didn’t remember the time you got frustrated with a word you were struggling to read or an equation you didn’t solve correctly on the first try. In my own experience, I’ve seen how much pressure is being put on students not only by adults, but by the kids themselves. That pressure is pretty heavy, and sometimes, it’s overwhelming. Most of the time, I can spot frustration before it has been reached, and I am armed with strategies for them to employ. I thought this would be a great space to share them.

  • Provide a framework
    Most of my students reach frustration without always knowing why. Was it really that I asked them to complete a task or was it something else that happened before they even walked into speech? I give them the frame “I feel ____ because ______.” This requires them to think about what is causing the emotion. Sometimes it’s something simple, like, “I need a fidget to focus.” Sometimes it’s “I need to go to the office and call home because I left my library book in my room, and it’s due today.”
  • Provide the student with choices.
    If the student is frustrated, I give them choices for navigating the moment. Do you want to work, or do you want to take a two minute break? If the student says they need a break, then by all means, please take it. If they’re ready to work, I ask them if there is something that will help them complete the task, and provide it as appropriate.
  • Ask them what they need.
    Sometimes, my students will point-blank tell me they’re frustrated or that something just isn’t working. My response is “Okay. What do you need?” This response varies from situation to situation, as well as by student. Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s taking deep breaths, sometimes it’s a fidget toy. It can be just about anything, but by identifying the need, they can identify a potential solution which leads me to my next strategy….
  • Problem solving diagrams
    These are simple and easy to make. I usually use a dry-erase board and ask the student to tell me the problem. I then give them the time and space to dictate to me potential solutions to the problem. This gives us the opportunity to walk through all of our options and arrive at what the student will do to solve the problem. We can discuss how to react in the future, and the varying “sizes” of the problem. We can give it a scale and brainstorm when it’s appropriate to take which action. This allows the student to feel empowered and truly own their actions and reactions.
  • Change the activity.
    I will usually move back to a task the student feels confident completing as we work through the moment of frustration, or take a break. This break can be silent or it can be to discuss the issue at hand. The alternative to this is ask the student what they’d like to do for the last 5-10 minutes of the session and have them work towards that reward. Mad Libs and Bingo are always a hit with my students.
  • Follow their lead.
    If the student doesn’t want to talk to you about the issue, don’t force it. Do they want to talk to the counselor? A teacher? Let them. Do they just need a break? Allow them to take it. Adults don’t like to work while frustrated either, and allegedly, we’re better at emotional regulation. Does the student want to throw the lesson out the window and talk to you? Listen. Listening makes a world of difference. If you can get back to your lesson, great. If not, there’s always next time.

Working well under pressure isn’t for everyone, and my students are still learning how to regulate their emotions. If they’re visual learners, I will break out the “How Is Your Engine Running?” or Zones of Regulation tools I have at my disposal. These frameworks allow their feelings to become more concrete to them so they can better express themselves. As adults, we forget how much is expected of a student throughout the day–transitions, multiple subjects, homework, independent work, social interaction, assessments–add any pull-out service to that, and of course it’s stressful. My challenge this week is that we observe and listen to the feelings of others and see if we can come up with additional strategies, or identify what strategies work for you and your students.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP

Inclusion · Lesson Plans · The Human Connection · Wise Words

Ruling Your Kingdom and Owning Your Title: A Lesson Inspired by Queen Lesli

Ever since I was introduced to her work, I have been very much inspired by Lesli Margherita, or as she’s known on Twitter Queen Lesli. Let me start by saying 1) All Hail the Queen and, 2) Queen Lesli Margherita, you have an open invitation to come on this blog whenever you’d like—you’re such an inspiration to my students and myself. Now that that’s out of the way….

I once heard her explain the concept behind her title of Queen as giving herself the title no one else would give her. In an interview in 2014 on The Theater People Podcast with Patrick Hinds, she encouraged the listeners to give themselves their own title, “Whether it’s King, whether it’s Queen, whether it’s Supreme Ruler Of My Room. What’s going on in other people’s kingdoms doesn’t matter; be you, and you rule your own kingdom. Recently, she was on The Hamilcast with Gillian Pensavalle and stated how important it was for people to take control of their happiness and their lives. Take these statements and Ms. Margherita’s positive and hilarious social media presence, and I came up with this lesson plan.

We were learning about character traits, self-esteem, and kindness, and I declared myself the Supreme Ruler of The Speech Room. As my students laughed at me, I asked what they’d call themselves. The students wrote their titles on name tags, ranging from royalty to most hard-working to best at practicing their sounds. As they completed this portion of the exercise, I drew a castle on my large whiteboard, not a great castle, but it had a moat and a drawbridge. This was the Supreme Speech Castle. I told them that whenever we were in the speech room, they were in the speech castle, and they would have to represent their titles. I asked how they would want their titles described, and words they would not want to be called. The breakdown looked like this:

Positive Character Traits Negative Character Traits
Kind Mean
Responsible Rude
Hard-working Selfish
A good listener Annoying
Friendly A Quitter
Fun Boring
Funny Unfair


The next thing I did was ask my students how they demonstrated each positive quality towards other students at school. Each student shared their anecdotes about how they were kind and fun and hard-working, and some even explained why they were those things. I then asked about how they acted when they were confronted with a negative character trait, and how it made them feel. I was met with frustrated, annoyed, upset, and unheard. I explained that it was for these reasons, we wanted to work hard not to demonstrate those characteristics, and that we did want to show off how kind we were. I shared that someone (Queen Lesli Margherita) once shared with me (via something she said on The Hamilcast), that when confronted with these negative experiences, we could just pull up our draw bridges and ignore what was going on in other kingdoms. Not our kingdoms, not our castles, as one student said.

My challenge to them is to continuously show off their positive attributes and to draw up their “moats” when faced with negativity. My challenge to you this week is threefold: 1) Come up with your title and leave it in comments if you’re feeling proud of it, 2) Decide on character traits you’d like to be known for and show them off, and 3) When faced with negativity, instead of feeding into it, draw up your moat and make your kingdom the happiest place on Earth. Straighten your crown and rule your kingdom. You can learn more about Lesli Margherita at http://www.leslimargherita.com/ and on Twitter at @QueenLesli, and I strongly suggest you do. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and you’ll learn how royal we all are.

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!

–Stef the StageSLP

Autism Awareness · Lesson Plans

I Won’t Grow Up!

Tomorrow is the last day of school before we go on Spring Break, and both my students and I are ready. Weeks going into and coming out of break are always the hardest on all of us–trying to get things done before everyone enjoys some much needed time off. So, how do I engage my students who just want to play? Play with them of course! Yes, that’s right; for all the paperwork, assessing, and teaching I do, sometimes I just want to play. Getting older is inevitable, but no one said I had to grow up!

Act It Out–a perspective taking and language activity.

I love this and came up with it in graduate school. My students on the spectrum love it even more. It’s how we identify feelings and understand the perspectives of others. This week, I’ll be using the Pigeon books by Mo Willhems and Laurie Berkner’s song. “We Are the Dinosaurs.” First, we read or listen to the material and talk about the character traits and actions we heard or saw and I write them down on a white board. I also use pictures to help solidify concepts. We all talk about our respective favorite parts, causing us to engage in a conversation also adhere to the rules of conversation, or in some cases, just learn about the rules of conversation. Once everyone has had their say, it’s time to play! Each child gets a turn to act out their favorite part of the book or song, adn the other students get to guess which part it is Once it’s guessed correctly everyone gets to act out said part together, then a student is chosen (either by the first student to act out or myself) to act out their favorite part. This continues until everyone has had a turn. That’s right–I fit turn taking in there too! The last round of Act It Out allows for the students to act something out  from ANYTHING they like–movies, TV shows, books. This is their reward. It really helps my students understand the emotions of a character in a book, and for my more advanced students, helps generalization of understanding the feelings of others while building their knowledge of story elements and vocabulary.

Articulation friends, I didn’t forget about you either. We’re working on joke books!

Each student gets a file folder, where they get to write down their favorite jokes containing their speech sounds. These can be jokes they know or jokes they make up. As they write them, each student has to practice their jokes with the other students in speech. I intervene to provide specific instruction on how to correctly produce targets. This allows for many trials and practice opportunities for the kids. Meanwhile, the kids think it’s just a “play day” in speech. And we all get to be creative. We all win.

Between now and my next post, I will be in New York City taking in  more theatre and will post about that next Wednesday. Can’t wait to share with you! Have a great week!

Keep playing with words and see what your message creates!
–Stef the StageSLP